Jon Pascua interview

I present, Jon Easter Ibarrola. I am convinced that this interview will mark a before and after in your training sessions and you'll see the world as a professional goalkeepers coach sees it.

I recommend you to visit their website,, which has very interesting things.

22 October 2012 - Written by Fernando Ortiz Castillo

I present, Jon Easter Ibarrola. I am convinced that this interview will mark a before and after in your training sessions and you'll see the world as a professional goalkeepers coach sees it. This interview was very interesting and I hope you find it as helpful as I did. It's full of feelings and passion for the keeper coaching.

I recommend you to visit their website,, which has very interesting things. Thanks Jon.

Calentamiento Soccer City.JPG Soccer City warm up

Name: Jon Pascua Ibarrola.
height / weight: 180 cm y 75 kg.

You start playing as a goalie at the age of 11, in the team of your town, the Bermeo FC, What drives you to get underneath the goal? Who was your reference as a goalkeeper?


Well, honestly, there was no one who did better in school, I always wanted to play right-back but I had no other option. We played scholar championships and had more chances to win if I played goalie. I ended up liking it and I stayed there. My reference at that time, as for many of those born in 1972 was Arconada.

Let us know more about your sports carrer.

Well, there's not much to tell, a normal career, like any other semi-professional player who spent most of his career between teams in third and second B division . Most notably, I went through two youth teams, Zaragoza B and Alaves B, and played in all categories of Spanish football leagues except the two most important, first and second division.

At what point in your career did you first have a specific goalkeeper coach?

I think I never had a specific goalkeeper coach, we had someone that could come maybe the weekends or one day per week to help us. Only in Deportivo Alaves, when there were playing in first division, when I was training with the first team at the age of 27, it was the first time I had a specific coach only for us goalkeepers.

How was the specific training in on your days?

Well, the classic exercises, lots of falls, the typical air balls and little more. A basic work that kept you fit and not really oriented to improve skills. They were more or less the beginning and the goalkeeper coach was a new figure. The technical and tactical knowledge we had back in those day are nothing compared to what today's goalkeepers know, but it is true that we didn't care that much. We just wanted someone that would make us feel more important, it was better than having no one. Today, the goalkeepers know if the work they are doing is going to be enough to achieve the goals they need, so you must be very strict with yourself, have self-criticism and be flexible with your method. The program has to be discussed with the keepers so both parties feel comfortable.

Unfortunately, the injuries made you retire at the age of 29. But when did you start with the motivation of becoming a goalkeeper coach?

Right when I retired! I think that my last years I started to pay attention to what I was doing and to think about it, about my technical skills, tactical skills, my physical qualities and most important, my mental behavior when competing. To be honest, I didn't like what I was seeing, and to see what I used to do, which was less than the half of what I would have liked to do, and it felt really bad. I was not enjoying it because I was aware of my weaknesses, and I was already in the other side. My pubis injury made it easy. Why should I get surgury? I thought. As a player I no longer had any goal, I knew how far I could go and in that moment I started coaching. And I started the same as a player, from the lowest. Now I'm very proud to see how far my work has taking me and all of it knowing I didn't step over anyone.

Has the training changed a lot since you were playing?

It has nothing to do with my days as a player. Training today, at the age of 40, I think I would be a better player today in comparison to my active days. I have a better knowledge of the game, and the capacity to live with my strengths and my weaknesses. And when it comes to preparation, I always oriented my methodology to the kind of coach I would have wanted to have. It's important you know where you want to go and how you are going to get there. I think in the past we just trained, with no direction or goal, we just were worried about being trained. Now the is a How and a Where to everything. Football has also changed so we had to change with it. Just like life! you can stare at your life passing in front of you.

Two years ago, you started a fascinating adventure training Mamelodi Sundows F.C., a team in Pretoria, South Africa. How was that call?

I finished training in Athletic Club de Bilbao and a year after training Club Deportivo Badajo, I received a phone call from Antonio Lopez and Miguel Martinez to sign for Sundowns. A year before the also called me but it wasn't possible.

Did you think a lot about it or did you always know that you would spend part of your career abroad?

I didn't have to think about it, I wouldn't have to talk about money although it was an important offer. I didn't speak English and I had never coached a professional team at that level, but I didn't care about it. The only thing that concerned me was the language. But I'm lucky I trust my training methods and my possibilities, I think I'm capable of training at all levels. I wasn't scared of the club, league, head coach. It's also important to be aware of the place you occupy in the team. I at the head coach service and I'm clear with my tasks. I also think I adapt fast to a group. And those are the reasons why I didn't think about it and just accepted it.

I've been watching your training sessions, you work a lot of coordination and speed moves but... which do you think is the most important condition in a goalkeeper to improve?

It is an accumulation of many things, as you point out, I work hard physically coordination, movement speed and strength, but it is only a small part of my working method. It is what you can see in the videos that I have on my personal web because it is the easiest to record. Unfortunately in our facilities I don't have the ability to record from heights and that severely limits to show other tasks. Technically I am also very demanding I have a very strong technical pattern, actually more than a year ago I published a book in which I developed this pattern and other concepts. Then there is the tactical and psychological aspect for me. Perhaps this is one of the areas I'm better working at Sundowns, despite that I do "behind the scenes". For me this last aspect is my secret in this club, far above all you can see in the videos. However to get to this point where we are, there has been much daily work and extended in a space of time. On my arrival I found goalies who had never worked any aspect whatsoever, so I had the opportunity to mold them my way, showing my perception or idea of ​​how they should behave in training sessions and competition and then they made them decide where they wanted to go. I proposed and they accepted the challenge. As they say "I sold the bike." And look, the day I leave this place, I'm sure they will continue in this line. One of the best memories I'll take of South Africa is the day that Wayne Sandilands was handed the award for best player of the season during my first year at Sundowns. It was televised, receiving the "statue" he hold it up and said, "I want to thank the coach Jon this award, and thank you for the impact it has had on my personal life and my career." What more could you ask for? It is short and brief but great content that sums up my work here.

What are the diferences between a goalkeeper in Spain and a goalkeeper in South Africa?

The biggest difference is how they climb up in Spain, you will usually come with basic work under your arm, here , they arrive with nothing. I can not comment you more about it because I have not trained professional goalkeepers stage performance in Spain. But if I'm honest I think right now, that after working here just over two years and see trends that have taken our goalkeepers, and do not think there are many differences in the working method that could develop in one place or another. I think right now, if we take our keepers and we train together with goalkeepers in the Spanish first division, no one would say at any time that they are Africans. Well, in  Denis Onyango'scase yes, because he is colored. For the competition they need time to adapt, especially to get used to the quality that holds up people playing in the Spanish league and speed in the game.

And what are the differences between a Spanish coach and a South African coach? 

Well to be honest I don't really know how they train here or back in Spain but I have an idea but not enough to talk about it. I have seen just a few keeper coaches working in Primera division. If you ask me who are the 10 best coaches who work air balls, I have no idea. Plus it's hard to find information, no one shows their work free on the internet to be share between all coaches, It's hard for me to evaluate a job your work if I don't have information, I don't like to evaluate in these circumstances. Neither when I can actually see it, because sometimes, like in my case, what you see the most is not what you work the most. Today, if you want more information you must get in a course, and there are many people that because of money or time cannot do it. That is why I started my website, the idea is not to only show my work but to teach and not just by sharing my knowledge but to make you develop ideas by yourself to create your own method. I think people are too mistrusting when it comes to sharing their work in public, if it's not a seminar or course, which are usually payed. I don't do it in an altruistic way, you know why? Because I receive so many grateful messages for sharing my job. You've been one of them. My job is there, so people can discuss and criticize and also to enjoy it. I'm not worried about the reviews and that's because my life is not only football. I needed time to realize it but now I know that football is the way but not the goal. I don't have big sport aspirations, I have personal aspirations which is different. But to achieve these personal aspirations I need football because it's the way I can achieve them. I realized it when I left Athelic Club de Biblao, three years ago. And know I don't look at football the same way.

You spent some time concentrated in studing and creating your own method, Have you had to change your method with the South African players? or fo you think it works for them?

I think my method can work in all countries, coltures and leagues in the world, it's just that it can take me more or less time to develop it depending on what I find. My secret is not just the method but to be able to adapt it and optimize it with people. Each single goalie is different, and sometimes a new method can give bad results than a classic line. The important thing is to get a good reading of the situation, the goalie, the club, the country, etc. And find a line that will adapt to that environment. I don't go with the idea of enforcing my method above everything, but to try to apply it. I use my sixth sense, I don't care if I have to use basic exercises to achieve my goals. When I arrived to South Africa I used exercises I used with under 10 kids in Athletic Club de Bilbao, I started from the beginning with a lot of patience. The goalkeeper is the important thing here, not my method. My Method is completely worthless if the goalie doesn't feel comfortable. The formation stage is different too, but here there are no changes, the specific work in the formation stage is like going to a grade where you have lots of subjects and an agenda to develop in a long term. These are two different worlds, I like both, right now I'm with performance but I could go back to formation in the future. Who knows!

Can you spend all the training session with the goalkeepers or does the head coach give you a limited time?

I always adapt to the time the head coach gives me, which is no problem. I manage that time as I see, for example, Johan Neeskens would never tell me how to work with the goalies. I respect his job and he does the same with mine. It's really easy to work with him, he makes everyone around him feel valued. He always comments with me things related with the goalies, although he has the last decision, that's how it must be, but he asks me and he listens.

Jon WITH Denis Onyango

When it comes to the sessions planning. Do you prepare it by your won or with all the rest of coaches?

I do it all by my own, once I know how much time I have I just have to choose the exercises and content. I always work with the idea of the week and I just have to adjust it to the training session.

Do you think the goalkeeper coach is a recognized figure?

It depends on the expectations you have and the roll you want to have in the coach team. This is the way I see it:

First: I don't want the power of choosing which goalie has to play, it's better to do your job apart and let them decide. But if the head coach wants my opinion I will give it to him and what I talk with the head coach I talk it with my goalkeepers. If Johan asks me who should play, I tell him who and I also tell the keepers. Every single comment I make on my players I let them know.

Second. I don't want to be in the bench. I do my work during the week and I consider that when the keeper is playing he doesn't need more that the head coach and the assistant. When it's half time I do go to the locker room if I've seen something that should be commented but it's never more than a minute. The keeper knows what he's doing right and what he's doing wrong. I try not to interrupt. But when I receive the video, that's when I go hard and ask and ask and ask in every single decision he made and I want to know what he felt in each moment. I want to know his mechanism to be able to help him.

Said so, I answer your question: "the coach figure depends on how your keepers value you", the rest? I don't care. As long as the head coach and the keepers are happy with me I don't care about the rest. And I will tell you something else, we are not that important, the key is the player. A good friend of mine told me once: "success and failure, those two big imposters". I'm not in heaven when my player has made a good game and I'm not in hell when he has a bad game. But when we watch the video I do give him feedback and if I don't like something I let him know and just the same when I like something. That way his knows he can count on me. I suffer for him but not thinking on if I will be the cause of it, but because I know he suffers. It between the head coach the player and me. I think today we talk too much about the goalkeeper coach as if he could make miracles. The player has the talent and we have to try to make them show it.

And something really important: we are at the players disposal, and not opposite I we have to be able to accept it. I know a lead a group but I decide to do it by getting in the same level as them. They have a voice in this group to tell what they feel. But always being careful so they don't overstep the limits. They are free to discuss my method and help me be a better coach just the same as I am the one who evaluates their work with the goal of trying to make them better.


Do you see yourself traing in Spain in a future?

I have no idea! I'm a little bit weird in how I see all of those things. What moves me is not football, is teaching, helping, that makes me feel better person and it's what makes me happy. If with going back to Spain it means a sports improvement, I wouldn't, as I said what moves me is the personal matters not the sport matters, I'm being honest. At my age, I feel secure about my future, I just want to be happy and enjoy my job. I'm not interested in doing it at a high level, I've already achieved what I wanted to achieve in my professional life. It's not about being a conformist, it's about being smart, because I know what it is that I like to do and what I don't need. To be honest I don't like all that is around this world. And if you are in a higher level with more responsibilities it's more complicated. And I don't want to be part of that. I don't even have an agent, I'm the one who negotiates his contract. Once a good colleague told me: "Jon, every person is full of defects and I was lucky that God gave me a gift, to not know what it is to be jealous". I totally agree with that because I have committed lots of mistakes in my life but never with bad intentions. But this world, because of everyone's interest, you can find all kinds of people. I'm lucky enough that right now I'm the one in charge of deciding and I decide to have personal goals instead of sport goals. But just as I said, football is sometimes, the way to achieve my personal goals. I will say even more, if I had to choose between being a maths teacher at the university and this... You would be surprised because you'd see me teaching. But reality is this: I love my job and that 90 minutes I spend with the keepers is like being in heaven. I don't even think on training in Spain in the future, I'm just thinking on the training session for tomorrow. We've only made 4 points out of 24 and they are talking about the destitution of the head coach and if this happens I'd loose my job and I'm not worried about it because I'm a professional at what I do. Whatever has to come will come and I'm not worried. As they say here "God has a plan for me, and I'm waiting for it".

Did you know about SOLOPORTEROS.COM?

Who doesn't know but I must say I'm not a good client because I don't wear gloves and the player usually give me boots. When I jump into the pitch I don't really look like a goalkeeper coach. I must say it's amazing how far you guys have grown and all that you have created. You have created a monster starting from zero. Congrats!

Thanks for the interview.

Thank you, it was a pleasure. The sky is the limit!

Jon with Wayne Sandilands

Image gallery

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  • Ivan Franco Villar
    22 October 2012
    que suerte tuve de que me entrenara en alevines y en infantiles aprendi muchisimo
  • Jon Utrilla Gutierrez
    22 October 2012
    yo tuve la oportunidad de trabajar cuando era infantil de segundo año y cadete de primero en un campus que se hacia en leioa, y no tengo mas que buenas palabras para el, tanto en el trato deportivo, como en el personal, y tras verle unos años despues su trato fue igual de bueno. Un autentico crack y profesional
  • Sin imagen de perfil
    Angels Marti Del Cerro
    22 October 2012
    Muy interesante la entrevista y su pagina web!! estaria bien leer por aqui algun entrenamiento especifico para los partidos. Animo con el blog!!! 
  • Oscar Santamaria Pablo
    23 October 2012
    Hola de nuevo, me alegro de que os guste este tipo de entrevistas.Prepararé un calentamiento-tipo de partido para que lo tengáis y podáis aplicarlo en vuestro equipo.Un saludo a todos
  • Jorge Gonzalez Cabral
    23 October 2012
    ¡Un 10 para la entrevista! ya he repasado cada rincón de la web de Jon, y no puedo dejar de visitarla diariamente a ver las nuevas noticias tanto deportivas como experiencias personales en la otra parte del Mundo.Enhorabuena a Oscar por el blog que también estoy pendiente de las actualizaciones (ya puse en práctica parte del vocabulario y ejercicio de blocaje) y suerte a Jon en esa experiencia que está viviendo (a ver si mejoran los resultados del Sundowns) Saludos!
  • Sin imagen de perfil
    Pedro Arana Rezola
    30 November 2012
    su libro manual de entrenamiento técnicos de porteros es el mejor libro con diferencia que he manejado en mi vidaaparte de las explicaciones técnicas las secuencias de fotos permiten entender y explicar perfectamente todos los conceptos, lo que hace que por ejemplo para mi que trabajo en categorías inferiores me sea de una enorme ayuda por lo que lo recomiendo para todos aquellos entrenadores que quieran trabajar conceptos como blocajes, desvíos, despejes etc
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